Viewers didn’t know what to expect from Marvel’s latest horror film. “Werewolf by Night” was announced as a one-off Halloween special, 53 minutes long and shot in black and white.
But it has received plenty of admiration since its release over the weekend on Disney+. This masterpiece, based on Marvel Comics, has the third highest rating among shows and movies released on the streaming service up until now, as Paul Tassi wrote for Forbes.
So far, both the Rotten Tomatoes critic score and audience score, made up of over 1,000 ratings, are over 90%.
‘Werewolf by Night’ breaks MCU barriers
The high ratings, retro aesthetic and the ability to break away from the known Marvel universe could even make “Werewolf by Night” a Halloween classic.
It is also the studio’s first full-fledged attempt to evoke horror — though it’s worth noting that Sam Raimi’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which was released earlier this year, did take the first leap into the frightening and the nightmare-ish alongside the superhero storyline.
The short film leans on the score to create the spooky atmosphere — created by the Oscar and Emmy-winning composer Michael Giacchino, who has worked on notable films like “Up,” “The Batman” and “Spider-Man.”
But the music in this project is the most intense out of all his works, he revealed in an interview with Variety. The director-composer explained the idea behind the Halloween special was to create “something different and bold.”
“Not worry about where it’s going or how it’s going to connect to something else. Let’s take the Rod Serling approach, tell a single isolated story,” he said in the interview.
Meanwhile, Man-Thing, a character with an octopus-like face and big beady eyes, has come out as a fan-favorite. Although he gets into a few blood-filled battles, this monster comes across as a gentle being.
Man-Thing’s popularity proves that this noir film isn’t afraid of creating sympathy for a monster, nor does it shy away from its sense of humor.
What is Marvel’s ‘Werewolf by Night’ about?
This isn’t the type of horror film that would give you nightmares — it's more fun. The opening title sequence reveals monster hunters, who live in secret, alongside the Avengers. One night, they all return to the Bloodstone Temple after their leader, Ulysses, has died.
The somber night takes a turn when they are forced into a deadly competition of hunting down a ruby red gem, infused with powers. The stone’s redness is the only color that invades the grayscale theme.
Don’t expect realistic CGI and visual effects. “Werewolf by Night” brings the revival of the horror films from the 1930s and 1940s, filled with suspense and dread-evoking music.
Based on the comics from the ’70s, the story follows Jack Russell, the wolfman, played by Gael García Bernal (“Old”). According to Collider, the character is known for his ties to Moon Knight, but his story hadn’t been explored on-screen until now.
The changeling weaves through a labyrinth for an arena and dodges monster hunters who are ready to fight anyone for the magical stone. As he journeys into the night amid monsters, only Elsa Bloodstone, played by Laura Donnelly, sees his true colors and his good heart.
But what happens when the monster hunters find out about the beast among them?
“Bringing subtle intensity, understated silliness and bemusement, and sweet, earnest longing to control his own inner monster, Bernal is a spectacularly fun addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Mashable’s Shannon Connellan writes.
What are the themes in ‘Werewolf by Night’?
The friendship between the werewolf and the Man-Thing comes across as heartwarming, highlighting the importance of loyalty.
There is not much cussing, substances or sex and nudity, but there is plenty of violence — chopping off of limbs, wolf teeth wrapped around a victim’s neck and some beheading.
IMDb listed out the scene with Ulysses’s taxidermied body as “quite disturbing,” as the skin appeared to be rotting.
Some of the violence and gore can be frightening for children younger than 14. One parent noted on Common Sense Media that the black-and-white filter helps the bloody scenes look less scary.
The film features a diverse cast made up of Black and Asian American actors as well as women in prominent roles — including Donnelly, Harriet Sansom Harris, Eugenie Bondurant, Leonardo Nam, Daniel J. Watts and Carey Jones, (who plays Man-Thing). Meanwhile, Bernal is of Mexican heritage.
Can you watch ‘Werewolf by Night’ with the whole family?
This monster-filled flick is much bloodier than what Marvel fans are typically used to but the violent sequences aren’t what create horror here — it is the suspense, designed through old-school lighting techniques and a distressing score, that fuels the fear.
Teens may enjoy “Werewolf by Night” since it isn’t as scary enough to make you jump off your seat. Those who are fans of horror may enjoy watching work inspired by classic films and comics. Overall, it's an easy watch and a break away from Marvel’s other movies and shows.
“Werewolf by Night” is rated TV-14 for frightening and intense scenes, violence and gore and some profanity.